Judges 11:26
While Israel dwelled in Heshbon and her towns, and in Aroer and her towns, and in all the cities that be along by the coasts of Arnon, three hundred years? why therefore did you not recover them within that time?
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(26) While Israel dwelt in Heshbon.—See Numbers 21:25. This is an argument from undisputed possession.

In Aroer and her towns.—These had been assigned to the tribe of Gad (Numbers 32:34).

In all the cities that be along by the coast of Arnon.—The LXX. read Jordan.

Three hundred years.—There is an almost insuperable difficulty in making out any reasonable scheme of chronology even by accepting this as a round number, because it is difficult to reconcile with nine or ten genealogies which have been preserved to us, and which represent the period between the conquest and David by seven or eight generations. Now the period covered by these genealogies includes the judgeship of Samuel and the reign of Saul—at least seventy years; and seven or eight generations cannot possibly span 370 years. The hypothesis that in all these genealogies—even the four times repeated genealogy of David—generations are always omitted is very improbable. The chronology of the Jews is confessedly loose and uncertain, and it seems quite possible that “three hundred years” may be a marginal gloss which has crept into the text. What makes this more probable is that the words not only create an immense chronological difficulty, but (1) are quite needless to Jephthah’s argument, and (2) actually conflict with the rest of the sentence, which refers to Balak alone; the argument being, If Balak, “at that time” (as the words should be rendered), did not advance any claim, what right have you to do so now? If, however, in spite of these difficulties, the clause be genuine, and if there has not been one of the clerical errors which are so common where numerals are concerned, it seems possible that 300 years may be counted inclusively, e.g., 100 full years since the death of Joshua and nominal completion of the conquest of Canaan, with parts of a century before and after it. Certainly this is a recognised mode of reckoning time among the Jews. For instance, if a king began to reign on December 30, 1879, and died on January 2, 1881, they would say that he had reigned three years. Whatever explanations we may adopt, there is nothing but conjecture to go upon. (See Introduction.)

Within that time.—This is a mistranslation, due probably to the perplexity caused by the “three hundred years.” The Hebrew has “in that time,” i.e., at that crisis. It was obvious, without special mention, that they had remained in possession ever since Balak’s day, and in the most ancient times it was admitted that lapse of time secured possession (Isocr. Ep. ad Aechid., p. 121; Tac. Ann. vi. 31).

Jdg 11:26. Three hundred years — Not precisely, but about that time, either from their coming out of Egypt, or from their first conquest of those lands. Here he pleads prescription, which by all men is reckoned a just title, and it is fit it should be so, for the good of the world; because otherwise a door would be opened both to kings and private persons for infinite contentions and confusions. And the prescription he pleads was for a long space of time, during which none of the kings of Moab or Ammon had pretended a right to this country, much less contested it with them. Wherefore did ye not recover them within that time? — No answer could be given to this question, why, in so long a time, they never asserted their claim till now.11:12-28 One instance of the honour and respect we owe to God, as our God, is, rightly to employ what he gives us to possess. Receive it from him, use it for him, and part with it when he calls for it. The whole of this message shows that Jephthah was well acquainted with the books of Moses. His argument was clear, and his demand reasonable. Those who possess the most courageous faith, will be the most disposed for peace, and the readiest to make advances to obtain; but rapacity and ambition often cloak their designs under a plea of equity, and render peaceful endeavours of no avail.Jephthah advances another historical argument. Balak, the king of Moab, never disputed the possession of Sihon's kingdom with Israel. 13. the king of Ammon …, Because Israel took away my land—(See on [221]De 2:19). The subject of quarrel was a claim of right advanced by the Ammonite monarch to the lands which the Israelites were occupying. Jephthah's reply was clear, decisive, and unanswerable;—first, those lands were not in the possession of the Ammonites when his countrymen got them, and that they had been acquired by right of conquest from the Amorites [Jud 11:21]; secondly, the Israelites had now, by a lapse of three hundred years of undisputed possession, established a prescriptive right to the occupation [Jud 11:22, 23]; and thirdly, having received a grant of them from the Lord, his people were entitled to maintain their right on the same principle that guided the Ammonites in receiving, from their god Chemosh, the territory they now occupied [Jud 11:24]. This diplomatic statement, so admirable for the clearness and force of its arguments, concluded with a solemn appeal to God to maintain, by the issue of events, the cause of right and justice [Jud 11:27]. Three hundred years; not precisely, but about that time; either from their coming out of Egypt, or from their first conquest of those lands; and thus numbers are oft expressed: see Numbers 1:46 2:32 11:21 Judges 20:46. He urgeth prescription, which is by all men reckoned a just title, and it is fit it should be so for the good of the world, because otherwise the door would be opened both to kings and to private persons for infinite contentions and confusions. While Israel dwelt in Heshbon and her towns,.... This was the principal city, which formerly belonged to the Moabites, and was taken from them by Sihon; who being conquered by Israel, it fell into their hands, and they inhabited it, and the towns adjacent to it, from that time to the present; see Numbers 21:25.

and in Aroer and her towns; another city with its villages, taken at the same time, and ever since inhabited by the Israelites, even by the tribe of Gad, who rebuilt it; it lay near the river Arnon; see Numbers 32:34.

and in all the cities that be along by the coasts of Arnon; which lay along by the side of that river, which divided Moab from the kingdom of the Amorites; these Israel had dwelt in three hundred years; and during this time, neither Balak king of Moab, nor any of his successors, had ever disputed Israel's title to those cities, or commenced a war with them on account of them; but they had continued in the peaceable enjoyment of them so long as three hundred years; which are thus reckoned in the Jewish chronology (z); Joshua governed Israel twenty eight years, Othniel forty, Ehud eighty, Deborah forty, Gideon forty, Abimelech three, Tola twenty three, Jair twenty two, and eighteen years Israel was oppressed by the children of Ammon, which with the six years of Jephthah make just three hundred; so that, according to this computation, there were six years short of it; but being so near, the round number is given:

why therefore did ye not recover them within that time? signifying they ought to have put in their claim sooner, and endeavoured to have recovered them long before this time, if they had any right unto them; wherefore Jephthah pleads prescription, and which in a course of time ought to take place; or otherwise the world would be full of endless contentions and controversies, and kingdoms and states would never be at peace, nor each one know and enjoy for certainty its proper domains.

(z) Seder Olam Rabba, c. 12. Vid. Jarchium & Kimchium in loc.

While Israel dwelt in Heshbon and her towns, and in Aroer and her towns, and in all the cities that be along by the coasts of Arnon, three hundred years? why therefore did ye not recover {i} them within that time?

(i) Meaning their towns.

26. While Israel dwelt] Rather When I. settled. For her towns see on Jdg 1:27.

Aroer … Arnon] The LXX reads Jazer (cod. A) … Jordan (so Vulgate), which looks like the original text. Jazer lay on the Ammonite border, Numbers 21:24 (LXX), 32, 2 Samuel 24:5, and is associated with Heshbon in Joshua 21:39; it suits the present context better than Aroer (now ‘Ar‘âir) in the extreme S. of Moab. Moreover, since ‘Aroer and her towns’ were situated on the north side of the Arnon, the words which follow in the present text, ‘and in all the cities that are along by the side of Arnon,’ add nothing to the description; Jordan gives us exactly what is wanted.

three hundred years] The total number of years assigned to the oppressions and to the periods of the Judges in the preceding chapters comes to 319, or, omitting the Ammonite oppression, to 301. The round number 300 seems, therefore, to be calculated upon the basis of the chronological scheme introduced into the book by the editor of the framework. Thus three hundred years must have been inserted into the narrative, to the disturbance of the proper sense of the clause which follows: within that time is an incorrect rendering; the words mean at that time (cf. Jdg 3:29, Jdg 4:4, Jdg 12:6 etc.), i.e. when Israel settled in Heshbon.Verse 26. - The occupation of the cities and villages referred to is related in Numbers 21:23 and following verses, and in Deuteronomy 2:36; see too Joshua 12:2. Aroer is not mentioned among the cities of Moab taken by the Amorites in the ancient book quoted in Numbers 21:27-80, and it has been conjectured that it may have been built by the Amorites to secure their new frontier. It is described by Eusebius and Jerome in the 'Onomasticon' as built on a hill overhanging the bank of the Amen, and a ruin called Arair has been foBy the coasts of Arnon, i.e. on the banks. The Septuagint for Arnon reads Jordan, which was the western boundary, as Arnon was the southern (ver. 22). The corresponding description in Deuteronomy 2:36 is, From Aroer, which is by the brink of the river of Arnon, and from the city that is by the river, even unto Gilead:, there was not owe city too strong for us: the Lord our God delivered all unto us. Three hundred years. These words seem quite unintelligible and out of place. They are also chronologically impracticable. One expects the number of the cities, as in ver. 33, rather than the number of years; and it is remarkable that the whole number of cities taken by the Israelites on the east of Jordan must have been just about 300, since the half-tribe of Manasseh had sixty. If Gad and Reuben had the same proportion, it would be exactly 300 (5 × 60). Within that time. The Hebrew phrase, which occurs about seventy times, invariably means at that time, and here can only refer to the time of the first settlement in the days of Balak, of which he had been speaking - another proof that the enumeration three hundred years is out of place here. If the reading years is not, as above suggested, an error for cities, the whole sentence, three hundred years, may very probably be an interpolation by a professed chronologist. The adding up of all the numbers of the servitudes and rests given in the book gives 301 years from the commencement of the oppression by Chushan-rishathaim to the death of Jair. But this method of reckoning gives the impossible period of 600 years from the exodus to the building of the temple. Judges 11:19-22 are almost verbatim the same as Numbers 21:21-25. Israel then sent messengers to Sihon the king of the Amorites at Heshbon, to ask permission to pass through his land. "Into my place," i.e., into the land of Canaan, that Jehovah has appointed for me. But Sihon "trusted not Israel to pass through his land," i.e., he did not trust to the assurance of Israel that they only wanted to pass peaceably through his land, but supposed the petition to cover an intention to take forcible possession of it. (In Numbers 21:23 we have נתן לא instead of האמין לא.) He did not confine himself, therefore, to a refusal of the permission they asked for, but collected his men of war, and marched against the Israelites to the desert as far as Jahza, on the east of Medeba and Dibon (see at Numbers 21:23), and fought with them. But he was defeated, and lost all his land, from the Arnon (Mojeb) on the south to the Jabbok (Zerka) on the north, and from the desert on the east to the Jordan on the west, of which the Israelites took possession.
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